Freedom in an Era of the Empty Chair

An article in the New York Times reports on China’s efforts to pressure its allies to boycott the Nobel prize ceremony last week in Oslo, and how this reflects a changing dynamic between the democracies and the non-democracies of the world:

Since many nations depend so much on China’s economy, “they didn’t want to speak about human rights. And this made the prize particularly important,” said Geir Lundestad, the director of the peace committee. After tilting against Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, apartheid South Africa and others, he said in a telephone interview, “should we make an exception for China? The answer was: no.”

And, whether it intended to or not, China itself imbued the award with a profound political message, turning it into a litmus test for freedom.

After Mr. Liu’s award was announced in October, China demanded that nations line up behind it to boycott the award ceremony, threatening fierce reprisals against those that did not. In the process, though, Beijing conjured forth what Clemens Wergin, a columnist in the conservative German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, called “an illustrious club of dictators and autocrats.”

…“China does not aspire to offer the world an alternative ideology, as the Soviet Union wished to do,” Mr. Wergin wrote. “But its pragmatic dictatorship feeds a hope in the club of autocrats that it is still possible to consolidate their dominance and simultaneously secure economic success.”

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